The next World Youth Day (WYD) will be held in Blessed John Paul II’s city, announced Pope Francis before praying the Angelus at the closing Mass of the 2013 Rio WYD.
This will be the second World Youth Day in Poland, after Czestochowa in 1991.
To learn about how John Paul’s homeland is beginning to prepare for the event, ZENIT interviewed Bogdan Oset, a catechist at an institute of Czestochowa and a member of the Organizing Committee of the 6th World Youth Day, held in 1991.
Bogdan Oset lives in Czestochowa with his wife, Ewa, and three children. He works as a catechist and professor of religion at the Cyprian Kamil Norwid Institute.
ZENIT: In your opinion, what will be the fruits of the World Youth Day that will take place at Krakow in 2016?
Oset: Looking at the history of the World Youth Days and recalling in particular the WYD of Czestochowa in 1991, I believe that Krakow will be the occasion to make the multicultural dimension grow in young people who profess the same values and the same faith in Jesus Christ.
The participants speak different languages, they come from different countries of the world, yet they even feel and believe in the same way. During a WYD they have the extraordinary opportunity to share with others their history, culture and faith. A WYD is an enthusiastic meeting of cultures and faith, precisely as happened during Czestochowa’s.
ZENIT: You were a member of the Organizing Committee of the 6th World Youth Day at Czestochowa in 1991. How do you remember those days?
Oset: It’s necessary to stress that during the WYD in 1991, for the first time after the War, the Church in Europe was able to breathe with her two lungs, that of the West and of the East, as John Paul II wished. There was a fraternal meeting of young people of the East and West in Czestochowa. For me and for many of my contemporaries the 6th World Youth Day at Czestochowa was an important point of reference. The Pope’s words “You must be strong …” still resound in our ears, although the most important event in my life was to be part of the Jubilee of Young People at Rome in April of 1984, and the meeting with John Paul II, a meeting that was a sort of general test for the subsequent WYD. John Paul II’s enthusiasm and authenticity have been a source of inspiration in my daily life, and John Paul II’s words, “you must be demanding of yourselves” are the motto of my catechetical work.
ZENIT: What are the objectives for Krakow’s WYD ?
Oset: The WYD in 1991 was an occasion to pull down the barriers that separated young people of Eastern Europe. The WYD that will take place at Krakow in 2016 should serve as a source to consolidate the authenticity of the religious life and the affirmation of the spiritual life which is opposed to the moral relativism of our times. Christians have many reasons to be proud and joyful. I think the WYD at Krakow will be the occasion to share Christian joy with everyone. The Church supported by joyful young people, witnesses of the faith, can nourish hope for the world. The future belongs to all young people. For many participants, the WYD has been the point of development of their life, and not only the religious life.
For the WYD of Krakow two or three million young people from all over the world might arrive. In 1991 Czestochowa benefitted in many ways from the organization of the 6th WYD. For a few days Czestochowa was the world capital for more than one and a half million young people. One of the results of that meeting was the birth of the Catholic Radio Fiat.
The 6th WYD was organized after the collapse of the Communist regime in Poland, and the event had great symbolic meaning. Krakow has the time and the possibility to improve and to build, if necessary, the necessary structures.
ZENIT: How is the Church in Poland preparing the WYD at Krakow?
Oset: The greatest task facing the Church is to attract young people, to invite them not only to take part but also to prepare the WYD. From my experience I know that young people are willing to be involved. In the school where I teach, a third of the pupils enrolled, some 400 were involved in activities in 1991 as volunteers. Together with pupils of other schools and for several months they committed themselves in the preparation to play the role of guides and interpreters. They did an excellent job which in the beginning seemed impossible. In 1991 knowledge of Western languages was very limited whereas today this problem no longer exists. Moreover, I think that the State authorities are more conscious today of what it means to organize a WYD, and they will give the appropriate help to the organizers of the meeting.[Translation by ZENIT]